Conservation & Environment

14 ways to turn your coronavirus cabin fever into climate action

Posted by on Apr 25, 2020 @ 6:58 am in Conservation | 0 comments

14 ways to turn your coronavirus cabin fever into climate action

In these times of unprecedented uncertainty, a to-do list can help you stay sane.

It doesn’t matter that you have no places to go or people to see. With COVID-19 tossing normal life down the drain the world over, the shred of normalcy helps you stave off apathy, paralysis, and a sudden aversion to wearing proper pants.

You’re not the only one desperate for a little structure in your life in the age of social distancing and sheltering in place.

Many of us who are fortunate enough to stay home during this crisis have been busy establishing work-life boundaries, maintaining an exercise routine, and staying in touch with loved ones. While these are all great ways to break up the monotony of sheltering in place, it’s also possible to pencil climate action into your newfound daily routine.

To get started, Grist put together a to-do list of daily climate-related activities that are compatible with social distancing for two weeks straight.

See the list here…

 

The Road to Reopening

Posted by on Apr 24, 2020 @ 7:03 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The Road to Reopening

As superintendent of Glacier National Park, Jeff Mow has grappled with wildfires and wayward bears, flash floods and fatal avalanches. He’s tangled with budget deficits and government shutdowns, climate change and record-setting throngs of visitors that stretch the park’s infrastructure to maximum capacity.

He’s modeled scenarios that account for rising temperatures and shrinking glaciers, endangered species and invasive ones, trailheads choked with hikers, the strategic placement of a vault toilet, and the logistics of maintaining a 50-mile expanse of alpine highway that has to accommodate around 3 million people every year.

Until now, however, he’s never had to contend with a pandemic. “This is a first,” Mow said. “But we do have some experience dealing with dynamic circumstances at Glacier National Park.”

Managing a unit of the National Park Service is, after all, a job that demands a high degree of administrative acrobatics, particularly when its accessibility is inextricably linked to the economies of its gateway communities. Each NPS supervisor must deal with their own set of unique requirements when considering future operation.

As it turns out, a public-health crisis of this magnitude dwarfs blazes and bears and budgetary woes — or, rather, it lumps them all into one confusing ball of string. Concerns for health of staff, gateway communities, seasonal workers and visitors are complicating the reopening of national parks shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Border wall construction brings crowds, and COVID-19 anxiety, into Arizona towns

Posted by on Apr 23, 2020 @ 6:46 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Border wall construction brings crowds, and COVID-19 anxiety, into Arizona towns

Unlike the rest of the U.S., the sleepy border community of Ajo, Arizona, is busier than ever these days, as hundreds of border wall construction workers pass through each day.

“The rest of us are staying at home just the way the governor has ordered,” said Susan Guinn-Lahm, an Ajo resident in her 60s. “We’re taking this seriously. They are not.”

Local officials are alarmed by the impact on the workers and the rural border towns they are interacting with and, at times, living in.

Numerous residents in Ajo complained of construction workers having parties and coming into stores in groups as large as 20.

“As the rest of the country shuts down to stop the spread of COVID-19, construction crews continue building Trump’s vanity wall with billions of dollars in stolen funds,” said the Arizona congressman Raúl Grijalva. “The presence of large construction crews in small border towns threatens the health of those communities where they are already underprepared to deal with the coming public health emergency.”

Read full story…

 

After decades of devastation, a comeback for western NC forests

Posted by on Apr 22, 2020 @ 6:48 am in Conservation | 0 comments

After decades of devastation, a comeback for western NC forests

On the Spruce-Fir Nature Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a forest that looks like it belongs in a fairytale grows on the slopes of Clingmans Dome. Soft green moss covers logs and rocks and tree trunks, muffling the sound of cars passing nearby. The trees grow so closely together in some places that they’re impossible to walk between.

In the mornings when the humidity is high, shafts of sunlight cut through the trees and pool on the rocky forest floor. Along the ridgeline, higher up near the peak of the mountain, the view opens and you can look down on the distinctive dark-green color of the spruce-fir forest.

But hundreds of dead trees spot the high slopes. They look like toothpicks, sharp and thin, and when the clouds come down across the mountain, there is something spooky about them.

These trees are the skeletons of Fraser firs, a species native only to the Southern Appalachians and a relic from the last Ice Age.

As conifer forests disappeared from the South when the glaciers retreated and the climate warmed, some trees found refuge on cool, high peaks. Fraser fir and red spruce, the two dominant tree species on these high mountains, form the base of a complex ecosystem full of plants and animals found nowhere else on earth.

Learn what happened, and what is happening…

 

“Steve & Lacy” Vandal Identified Himself and Apologized

Posted by on Apr 21, 2020 @ 6:42 am in Conservation | 0 comments

“Steve & Lacy” Vandal Identified Himself and Apologized

  A man has confessed to marking multiple sites in Death Valley National Park with graffiti. Charges are pending.

Graffiti that included “Steve & Lacy” was found on rocks, a well, and historic structures in Echo Canyon, Butte Valley, Homestake Dry Camp, and Crankshaft Junction. Defacing any part of the national park degrades the experience of other visitors.

Park rangers had some leads pointing to the man’s identity, and appealed to the public for more information on April 14. The National Park Service (NPS) appreciates that many people shared the story on social media and contacted the NPS with tips. The NPS Investigative Services Branch (ISB) handles tips on cases in all national parks and other NPS sites. The tip line can be reached at: 888-653-0009, online at www.nps.gov/ISB, or by email at nps_isb@nps.gov.

The man who confessed said that his acquaintance saw the story on social media and brought his attention to it. “Steve,” a resident of British Columbia, called the tip line himself on April 17. The following day he spoke with the investigating park ranger, confessed, and apologized.

Lacy is blameless – she is a dog.

Charges have not been filed again the man yet. Penalties could include a fine and/or restitution charges. The man’s cooperative attitude will likely be a mitigating factor.

This graffiti happened in January 2019 and January 2020. Park rangers are still patrolling Death Valley National Park during the current temporary closure due to coronavirus.

Cite…

 

30 Years of Roan Stewardship

Posted by on Apr 20, 2020 @ 6:53 am in Conservation | 0 comments

30 Years of Roan Stewardship

You may already know that Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy has been working for more than 45 years to protect and conserve our mountain home. And, you may also know that they trace the origin of their organization to the Roan Highlands, where SAHC’s founders first began efforts to conserve the land and views surrounding the Appalachian Trail. But, did you know that their efforts to actively steward and manage those lands started 30 years ago, with the formation of what is now known as the Roan Stewardship Committee?

The Roan Stewardship Committee is an ambitious collaboration of multiple partners including government agencies, nonprofit organizations, recreation clubs, scientists, and individuals passionate about conservation of the unique ecological communities found in the Roan Highlands.

It began with a handful of individuals concerned about long-term stewardship of Roan’s unique ecosystems. Now 30 years later, the Roan Stewardship Committee consists of more than 15 agencies and organizations.

Some groups, including the U.S. Forest Service and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, are long time partners, while others – like the Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture – are new to our collaboration. From the beginning, SAHC has formed the nexus of this collaboration, facilitating the Roan Stewardship Committee meetings and partnership efforts.

Read full story…

 

Greenland’s ice sheet melts by record amount due to climate change, study shows

Posted by on Apr 16, 2020 @ 6:24 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Greenland’s ice sheet melts by record amount due to climate change, study shows

As if coronavirus in’st enough to worry about, Greenland’s ice sheet experienced record melting last year that was driven by hotter temperatures and more frequent atmospheric circulation patterns triggered by climate change, scientists have confirmed.

The stark findings show that researchers could also be underestimating future melting by about half, as most models that project future ice loss do not account for impacts from changing atmospheric circulation patterns, according to the study led by Marco Tedesco, a researcher at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Greenland’s ice sheet experienced the largest outright drop in “surface mass” — or how much mass is lost due to melting compared to mass gained from snowfall — since record-keeping began in 1948, according to the study published in The Cryosphere.

Researchers warn that climate change will make the destructive high-pressure atmospheric conditions more common in Greenland, the biggest contributor to global sea level rise.

“Simulations of future impacts are very likely underestimating the mass loss due to climate change,” said Tedesco. “It’s almost like missing half of the melting.”

Read full story…

 

Pisgah National Forest Temporarily Shutting Down Dispersed Camping and Several Roads and Trails

Posted by on Apr 14, 2020 @ 6:49 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Pisgah National Forest Temporarily Shutting Down Dispersed Camping and Several Roads and Trails

In alignment with current federal, state and local guidance for social distancing and to ensure health and safety of its employees, visitors and volunteers, Pisgah National Forest will temporarily shut down dispersed camping and the roads and trails listed at https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/nfsnc/news-events/?cid=FSEPRD724408 effective April 13, 2020.

Forest order number 08-11-07-20-071 prohibits being on certain roads and trails, entering or using a developed recreation site, or camping on the Pisgah National Forest until August 13, 2020, or until rescinded.

Other recreation opportunities on the Nantahala, Uwharrie, and Croatan National Forests in North Carolina remain available to the public. To protect public health and safety all visitors to the forest are encouraged to:

Avoid visiting the forest if you are sick and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
Follow CDC guidance on personal hygiene and social distancing before and during your visit to the forest.
Take your trash with you when you leave. Trash overflowing the receptacles becomes litter and can be harmful to wildlife and attract predators.
Please make arrangements to use the restroom before or after your visit to the forest. Unmanaged waste creates a health hazard for employees and for other visitors.
If an area is crowded, please search for a less occupied location. Also consider avoiding the forest during high-use periods.

The USDA Forest Service continues to assess and temporarily suspend access to recreation areas that attract large crowds and cannot meet social distancing guidelines. Visitors to national forests are urged to take the precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For tips from the CDC on preventing illnesses like the coronavirus, go to: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention.html. Information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is available at: www.usda.gov/coronavirus.

As oil crashes, ‘America’s untapped energy giant’ could rise

Posted by on Apr 13, 2020 @ 6:22 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The coronavirus pandemic has mostly yielded bad news for renewable energy. Disruptions to supply chains and slowdowns in permitting and construction have delayed solar and wind projects, endangering their eligibility for the soon-to-expire investment tax credits they rely on. There’s another form of renewable energy, however, that might see a benefit from the recent global economic upheaval and emerge in a better position to help the United States decarbonize its electricity system: geothermal.

Geothermal energy comes from heat beneath the earth’s surface that we can tap into to generate electricity and to heat and cool our buildings. In a report released last year detailing the growth potential of geothermal energy, the Department of Energy called it “America’s untapped energy giant.”

Unlike wind and the sun, subsurface heat is available 24/7, perpetually replenished by the radioactive decay of minerals deeper down. But compared to wind and solar farms, geothermal power plants are expensive to build.

Engineers have to drill thousands of feet into the ground to reach reservoirs of water and rock hotter than 300 degrees F in order for the plants to be economical. Plants generate electricity by pumping steam or hot water up from those reservoirs to spin a turbine which powers a generator.

Read full story…

 

Deadly Coronavirus Concerns Have National Parks Being Cautious In Planning Reopenings

Posted by on Apr 11, 2020 @ 7:01 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Deadly Coronavirus Concerns Have National Parks Being Cautious In Planning Reopenings

Overarching concerns for the health of staff, concession workers, and visitors are complicating the reopening of national park sites shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic. Business won’t return to normal quickly or uniformly, with many parks confronting a unique set of issues they must resolve before they can welcome the public’s return.

Exactly when individual parks will reopen is unknown, with some units of the National Park System already saying they’ll be closed into late June, and others saying they might try staggered openings before summer officially arrives.

Seasonal workforces, thousands of individuals strong, normally are getting their positions for the summer season finalized now. But bringing workers in from not just across the country but possibly from throughout the world and housing them in dormitory settings is a potentially deadly proposition.

“… we cannot predict the exact burden of disease that our workforce and parks will see as the COVID-19 pandemic runs its course, but we can say with absolute certainty that leaving our parks open to the public when social distancing is not being practiced, onboarding employees originating from throughout the country and world, and permitting significant shared housing environments will result in a significantly greater burden of disease and death than if we had taken the proactive measure to continue to close these parks and/or limit operations,” one NPS manager said.

Read full story…

 

Research indicates high levels of microplastics in WNC waters

Posted by on Apr 7, 2020 @ 6:48 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Research indicates high levels of microplastics in WNC waters

Jason Love got interested in microplastics by way of mussels. A wildlife biologist by education and training, he’d long been interested in the reasons behind the decline of Southern Appalachian mussel species, and in particular that of the federally endangered Appalachian elktoe. He was interested while working in his previous position as site manager for Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory, and he’s interested now in his new position as associate director of the Highlands Biological Station.

“It used to have a stronghold in the Little Tennessee River, but beginning around 2004/2005 the populations just crashed, and they’re possibility extirpated from the Little Tennessee,” Love said. “That motivated me to understand what’s going on.”

In summer 2018, he had a few interns who needed a project to work on. Love saw that, while literature was starting to show that microplastics were showing up everywhere from the Arctic to the oceans, no research had yet been published examining the situation in Southeastern streams. So, with the students’ help, Love set about investigating the issue.

“We need to start thinking about plastic not just as trash that’s unsightly, but as low-level toxic waste that needs to be dealt with,” he said.

The team collected samples from the Little Tennessee, the Tuckasegee River and Cartoogechaye Creek. “We expected to find microplastics, particularly in the streams that had wastewater treatment plants, which is both the Little Tennessee and the Tuckasegee, but Cartoogechaye did not have a wastewater treatment plant,” said Love.

Read full story…

 

Farmworkers are risking their lives to feed a nation on lockdown

Posted by on Apr 6, 2020 @ 7:09 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Farmworkers are risking their lives to feed a nation on lockdown

You can’t pick strawberries over Zoom.

As strawberry-picking season kicks into high gear in April and May, farmworker advocates fear that a lack of worker safety protections, combined with a lack of access to health care and crowded living conditions, could lead to a major COVID-19 outbreak in farmworker communities across California.

As other crops are harvested throughout the spring, much of the rest of the country faces a similar risk. For a working population particularly vulnerable due to economic insecurity, exposure to pesticides, higher incidence rates of respiratory illnesses such as asthma, and chronic conditions such as diabetes, COVID-19 could be devastating.

“If we don’t do something to address the living, working, housing, and transportation conditions of farmworkers immediately, we are setting ourselves up for a tremendous impact in the agricultural sector because these crops cannot be picked without farmworkers,” said Andrea Delgado, director of government affairs for the UFW Foundation, which provides a range of services to farmworker and immigrant communities.

At the federal and state level, the UFW Foundation has urged Congress and state governments to address the unique needs of farmworkers by providing relief that can both prevent the spread of the virus and help the workers survive the challenges ahead. There are more than 2.4 million farmworkers across the country, and it’s estimated that about half are undocumented.

In the most recent economic stimulus package, Congress earmarked $9.5 billion for the Department of Agriculture and $14 billion in loans for the agricultural industry, but Delgado’s concern is that none of this funding is specifically directed at farm laborers.

Read full story…

 

As temperatures rise, Arizona sinks

Posted by on Apr 5, 2020 @ 6:42 am in Conservation | 0 comments

As temperatures rise, Arizona sinks

Arizona is sinking. The combination of groundwater pumping and warmer temperatures is shrinking aquifers and lowering water tables. And as the land subsides, fissures open, 2-mile wounds that devour infrastructure and swallow livestock. Four of Arizona’s five economic pillars — cattle, cotton, citrus and copper — use huge amounts of water, while the fifth, the state’s climate, is changing, making water scarcer.

Development and growth are intensifying the problem, despite relief from state laws and the existence of the Central Arizona Project, which began delivering Colorado River water to Phoenix and Tucson in the 1980s.

Today, where subsidence is worst, groundwater pumping isn’t even monitored, and big agricultural and anti-regulatory ideologues try to stymie any efforts to keep tabs on how much water is being pumped. Big corporate farms are sprouting in areas without CAP water and virtually no regulation on groundwater pumping.

More and more farms produce alfalfa, one of the thirstiest crops on Earth; the number of acres in hay production more than doubled between 1987 and 2017, and tonnage nearly tripled. Meanwhile, Arizona is getting even hotter.

Read full story…

 

It’s Important to Keep Talking About Climate Change Now

Posted by on Apr 1, 2020 @ 6:44 am in Conservation | 0 comments

It’s Important to Keep Talking About Climate Change Now

In the midst of a pandemic with an immediate and visible toll on human life and the economy, other ongoing crises have fallen lower on the public’s radar. But environmentalists are finding ways to keep climate change relevant by advocating loudly for an agenda that protects people as well as the planet.

A consensus seems to be emerging from environmental groups that climate change and coronavirus are both massive global problems that may require similar strategies to solve. Each requires a combination of individual action and sweeping, potentially unpopular political policies. Both bleed across political and social boundaries but affect the most vulnerable populations (even if the vulnerable are usually not the ones spewing carbon into the atmosphere or partying close together in Miami Beach).

Both will progress too far to effectively contain if we wait until we can see the impact of the crisis, but it’s hard to convince people to change if they can’t see the results. Both are growing exponentially, overwhelming the systems we rely on to sustain our daily lives. In the case of each crisis, we knew in advance that things could become apocalyptically bad.

Coronavirus has made it sharply clear that ignoring science can be deadly, and that placing responsibility for widespread crises on individual choice instead of government negligence can stall any realistic solutions. Those are lessons that environmental groups have tried to hammer home for years.

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The deep science state

Posted by on Mar 31, 2020 @ 7:14 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The deep science state

Since President Trump took office in 2017, environmental protection has been under assault. As of December, 2019, the administration had completed at least 58 rollbacks of environmental rules.

The good news is that government scientists and lawyers are inserting statistics and data about the dire consequences of proposed rule changes into the technical documents that accompany them. Those figures could help environmental groups challenge the new rules in the courts.

For example, in the EPA’s analysis of an Obama-era rule that limits the release of fine soot, scientists included data showing that up to 12,150 lives could be saved if the rule were tightened. (The administration doesn’t want to tighten the rule.) When the Trump administration released a proposal to reverse emissions regulations for coal-burning power plants, the draft included an analysis revealing that the changes would lead to 1,400 premature deaths per year.

There’s not much the Trump administration can do to stop these fact-forward disclosures. In many cases, they are protected by federal law that prevents the government from altering or suppressing science.

Cite…

 

Keeping the doorstep green: Canton likely to receive 448 acres for outdoor rec

Posted by on Mar 28, 2020 @ 7:09 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Keeping the doorstep green: Canton likely to receive 448 acres for outdoor rec

  If all goes as planned, Canton, NC will soon have a 448-acre park for hiking, mountain biking and other outdoor recreation activities just a mile from town limits. The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy hopes to close on the property, known as the Chestnut Mountain Tract and currently owned by Canton Motorsports LLC, within the next couple months.

“It’s amazing what’s going to happen, not just for quality of life and economic development, but also at the end of the day we preserve 450 acres which could have been developed by who knows what,” Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers said during a town meeting.

Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy has been working on the purchase for much of the past year, applying for grants and working with donors to pull together the funds needed to buy the property outright. In September, the land trust was awarded $1.2 million from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, with the Pigeon River Fund of the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina contributing $25,000 with a grant announced in November. However, it wasn’t until last week that the land trust publicly announced the project, following a $150,000 N.C. Department of Justice Environmental Enhancement Grant.

It is the intent of the town with assistance from Haywood County and with some of the other partners to turn this into a major outdoor recreation venue concentrating on mountain biking, hiking, & walking. The property has some topography, but it’s not crazy steep — elevation varies between a low of 2,365 to a high of 2,555.

Read full story…

 

Is life during coronavirus how we will live during climate change?

Posted by on Mar 27, 2020 @ 6:42 am in Conservation | 0 comments

So will this animation around COVID-19 translate to a climate revolution? The difficult thing about climate change, versus coronavirus, is that, until very recently, it appeared to be a far-off probability versus an impending threat. It’s really hard to get people to do things that are challenging or even just inconvenient to preemptively address a distant, not-certain threat. There’s been a general lack of real talk when it comes to the level of change needed — yes, even in your own life — to avoid the most serious consequences of global warming.

Given the urgency of the problem, a staggering number of people have, willingly or not, drastically changed their lifestyles for the greater good of humanity. That’s the same level of selfless initiative (or at least, government-mandated disruption) that activists say is needed to address the slower-moving existential crisis already in progress.

In very simple terms, curbing global warming will require everyone to change the way they live and shift away from fossil fuels. That doesn’t happen without a pretty compelling rallying cry.

More people need to treat the climate crisis as they did World War II: a global emergency that requires deep cooperation and personal sacrifice. But given our current COVID-19 predicament, we no longer have to look back that far in history for inspiration.

Read full story…

 

The Leave No Trace Recommendations for Getting Outside During Covid-19

Posted by on Mar 24, 2020 @ 7:01 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The Leave No Trace Recommendations for Getting Outside During Covid-19

The coronavirus pandemic is rapidly altering our daily life. It is important to be aware of the most current information from the CDC on these changes, and that goes for changes to the way we spend time outside as well. To keep ourselves, our communities, and our outdoor spaces safe and healthy during this time, please consider these recommendations.

Where COVID-19 is spiking, it may not be possible to get out at all, so pay close attention to guidance in your community before heading outside. Then follow social distancing guidance, meaning staying at least six-feet away from anyone you aren’t living with.

Many experts are recommending that you refrain from using public restrooms and other open facilities at all right now. Take necessary precautions like bringing extra food and water.

Pack all your trash and recyclables out with you all the way home and utilize your own receptacles.

Absolutely avoid crowded parks, trails and beaches. To avoid being part of the creation of large crowds and groups at popular outdoor areas, spread out to less popular spots, and avoid times of highest use if possible.

Our outdoor spaces will likely be receiving less attention from staff and volunteers right now. This means our shared spaces need us to act as stewards more than ever.

We are all in this together. Be considerate of others in the outdoors by ensuring that you practice social distancing. Be particularly kind to park staff during these challenging times.

Get more details…

 

How To Be A Climate Activist During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Posted by on Mar 23, 2020 @ 6:24 am in Conservation | 0 comments

How To Be A Climate Activist During The Coronavirus Pandemic

April was supposed to be a huge month for climate action. The plan was to have a month of global mobilization with thousands of protests and events planned by almost 1 million different organizations working together.

Activists had hoped to build on the success of last September’s worldwide climate strikes, which saw 8 million people take to the streets to demand action. And with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day next month, campaigners predicted millions of people would again be out on the streets in countries across the globe, trying to drive home the urgency of the climate crisis.

Then came the coronavirus.

Earth Day Network, the global organizer of Earth Day, has called for the first Digital Earth Day in response to the escalating threat of COVID-19. “Amid the recent outbreak, we encourage people to rise up but to do so safely and responsibly — in many cases, that means using our voices to drive action online rather than in person.”

It’s not just Earth Day, of course. U.S. organizations such as the Youth Climate Strike Coalition and the Stop the Money Pipeline, a coalition of 91 organizations dedicated to ending the financing of industries contributing to the climate crisis, have cancelled physical mass mobilizations and public rallies in the U.S.

Mandates for social distancing and self-isolation are simply not compatible with large-scale mass gatherings.

Learn how to still be active…